Dispelling Special Education Myths in the State Capitol

June 21, 2011

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It is often stated that charter public schools do not serve the same population of students with unique learning needs - such as students with disabilities - as their traditional public school counterparts. To dispel this myth, CCSA's Special Education and Government Affairs teams held a special event for policy makers and legislative staffers. The meeting, which took place at the State Capitol, attracted staff from Assembly and Senate education committees, the Department of Finance, the Legislative Analyst's Office, the California Department of Education, numerous Legislative offices, and two Congressional offices. The roundtable discussion, which was fueled by questions from the attendees, focused on current successes and challenges of charter schools when it comes to serving students with disabilities.

The session began with a discussion of some of the most common myths about special education in charter schools - such as the assumptions that charter schools refuse to enroll students with special needs, refer students with disabilities to other schools, or are unwilling or unprepared to serve students with the most significant needs. CCSA countered these arguments with data showing an increase in the number of students with disabilities being served in charter schools across the state, new options for charter schools in this area, and reiterating the charter school commitment to supporting all students.

The discussion then turned to the key factors underlying the current disparity between the special education demographic of charter schools and that of traditional public schools. Among these are the heightened success rates of charter schools in supporting students who are struggling before they are formally identified for special education services, the unique implications of California's statewide special education funding and governance structures on charter schools, and ultimately, the effects of parent choice on charter school enrollment.

Recognizing these challenges, and dedicated to expanding charter school options for students with disabilities, CCSA is engaged in statewide advocacy efforts designed to ensure that California charter schools are equipped to serve an increased number of students with special needs, and to provide quality special education services that meet a broad range of needs. Please click here to stay informed on current issues affecting special education and charter schools.

This informational meeting was the second in a series of on-going meetings aimed at keeping the Legislature, Congress, and education stakeholders engaged and informed on charter school issues. Be sure to participate in calls to action when your voice is needed by CCSA in Sacramento, view current legislation affecting charter schools, and keep up-to-date on Government Affairs events.

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